Charlotte’s Story, Part 3

This is the final part of my story about my great grandmother, Charlotte Browne Gradwell Marshall. The story begins here and continues here.

A few months after her older boys were placed there in 1905, Charlotte asked Father Hudson’s to take little Freddy, now two and a half. Her sister, Jane Talbot, couldn’t care for him any more and Charlotte had secured a position in Surrey as housekeeper to a priest. She offered to send half of her wages for Freddy’s keep. Father Hudson’s refused at first, but eventually they agreed to take him.

On a cold December day in 1906, she boarded the train at Euston Station to deliver her little boy to the Birmingham orphanage. Her letters reflect her desperate resignation to having her four boys and one daughter many miles away from where she now had to earn a living. 

Soon after this, she needed somewhere for her oldest daughter, Lillian, as well. Once again, Charlotte declined the offer of a Protestant home, to ensure her daughter would be raised a Catholic. Lilly was placed in a convent home in Oxford, many miles away from her siblings, in early 1907.

Charlotte wasn’t doing well at this point. She was very depressed without Freddy and even took him back temporarily, but had to pay others to look after him so she could work. Her health declined so much that she feared she would lose her job.

Finally, by late December 1909, Charlotte was back in Birmingham with no job. Seriously ill, she was in the Aston Workhouse infirmary, where her husband had died just 4 years earlier. Young Freddy was put into yet another orphanage, not where his brothers were this time. With her family scattered and all of her resources exhausted, we can only imagine her desolation in the grim confines of the Aston Workhouse, among more than 1000 other inmates.

But Charlotte recovered. She got another position, this time as a cook. And within two years of her desperate illness, she began a new life, with a new husband, William Marshall. By 1914, most of her family was reunited in Birmingham. All six children survived to create their own stories. Charlotte herself lived to see some of her grandchildren.

I feel truly privileged to be descended from Charlotte and to tell you these parts of her story. I am grateful to Father Hudson’s and the Sisters of Mercy for their generous responses to my request for information about Charlotte and her family.

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